Creating Hits on a Budget: Best Free DAWs for Music Production

Kickstart your music production journey without spending a dime. Check out our list of the best free digital audio workstation software in 2024.

Creating Hits on a Budget: Best Free DAWs for Music Production

Free digital audio workstations (DAWs) have changed the game when it comes to making music. These tools are instrumental in recording, editing, and producing audio files, enabling artists to craft hits right from their home studios. The best part? They're completely free but still pack a ton of powerful features to help you create some sick tunes right from your home studio.

It has to be said that free DAWs might not have all the bells and whistles of the paid ones. For instance, you might be limited on things like track counts. But a lot of free DAWs make up for that with other great features, like virtual instruments, effects, and sample libraries, so you can still get a lot of bang for your buck (or rather, no bucks at all).

The world of digital audio workstations is pretty diverse, so it's worth checking out a few different options to see what works best for you and your music-making needs in 2024. Take a look at our top picks of free DAWs for music production.


Audacity is a free and open-source digital audio editor and recording software application. It allows users to record, edit, and manipulate audio files on Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems.Key features of Audacity include:

  • Multi-track recording and editing capabilities
  • Support for a wide range of audio file formats for import and export
  • Noise reduction, amplification, and other audio effects and processing tools
  • Pitch and time manipulation features like pitch correction and time stretching
  • Ability to add labels, bookmarks, and other annotations to audio tracks
  • Real-time audio monitoring and level meters

While it offers a wide range of features, its multitrack recording and mixing capabilities may not be as robust or intuitive as those found in dedicated DAW software. Additionally, Audacity's real-time effects processing capabilities are more limited than those of some paid alternatives, which may be a consideration for users who require more advanced audio processing features.

The hardware requirements for running Audacity efficiently are relatively modest, but users should ensure their system meets the recommended specifications for optimal performance. At a minimum, Audacity requires a 2 GHz processor, 4 GB of RAM, and 500 MB of free disk space. However, for the best experience, it is recommended to have a 3 GHz or faster processor, 8 GB or more of RAM, and 1 GB of free disk space.

Ableton Live Lite

Ableton Live Lite is a more affordable and compact version of the popular digital audio workstation Ableton Live. It's a powerful software tool that allows music producers and musicians to write, record, produce, and perform their own songs.

Some of the key features of Ableton Live Lite include:

  • 8 audio and MIDI tracks, 8 scenes, and 2 send/return tracks
  • 4 software instruments (Drum Rack, Impulse, Simpler, Instrument Rack)
  • 21 audio effects and 8 MIDI effects
  • Over 1,500 sounds and samples
  • Ability to use MIDI controllers and hardware devices for performance
  • Intuitive interface with Session View and Arrangement View
  • Comping feature to piece together the best takes of recordings
  • Sound Similarity Search to quickly find the right samples and sounds
  • Keys and Scales tools to keep ideas in harmony

While Ableton Live Lite has a more limited feature set compared to the full Ableton Live software, it still provides a comprehensive set of tools for beginners to start making music. The limitations include a cap of 16 total audio/MIDI tracks, 4 mono inputs/outputs, and a lack of advanced features like audio warping and slicing.

The system requirements for Ableton Live Lite are relatively modest—it runs on Windows 10/11 or macOS 11 and up, with a 5th-gen Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen CPU, 8GB RAM, and 3GB of disk space for the basic installation.


LUNA is a digital recording environment developed by Universal Audio (UA) that is freely available for all macOS users, regardless of whether they own UA hardware. It's a relatively new DAW, released in 2020. UA claims that it's the only recording software with the sound of classic studio equipment.

The key features of LUNA include:

  • Unlimited track count
  • Deep integration with Apollo interfaces, allowing for ultra-low latency tracking and high-quality effects processing
  • Built-in Neve-style summing mixer for professional-grade mixing
  • Integrated multitrack tape emulation for a more analog-like recording workflow
  • All-new LUNA instruments and plugins designed specifically for the LUNA environment

To run LUNA, users need a macOS computer running 10.15 Catalina or newer, as well as an account for activation. However, an internet connection or a physical iLok dongle is not necessary to get started. A minimum of 600MB of free storage for the LUNA installation, plus additional SSD storage for sample-based instruments are also required.


GarageBand is a free music creation software that comes pre-installed on Mac computers, iPhones, and iPads. It operates like a fully equipped music studio, providing users with a library of lessons, sounds, instruments, and tools to compose, record, and edit music. GarageBand allows users to play and record live instruments, as well as use virtual instruments and loops to build songs.

Key features:

  • Intuitive and beginner-friendly interface with a "Quick Help" feature to explain different functions
  • Touch instruments like piano, guitar, and drums that respond realistically
  • Groove Track feature to automatically synchronize the timing of other tracks
  • Built-in lessons for guitar and piano to help users learn and improve their skills
  • Integration with iCloud to allow users to access and work on projects across devices
  • Support for third-party Audio Units (AU) and Virtual Studio Technology (VST) plugins
  • Automation capabilities to adjust parameters like volume, panning, and effects over time

Minimum system requirements include a 5th generation Intel Core i5 processor or newer, 4GB of RAM, and macOS 10.15 Catalina or later. For iOS and iPadOS, GarageBand requires a device running iOS 16 or later.

Waveform Free

Waveform Free is digital audio workstation software developed by Tracktion. It is a free, fully-featured version of Tracktion's paid Waveform Pro DAW, with no limitations on track count, exporting, or third-party plugin usage.

Key features:

  • Includes the core functionality of the full Waveform Pro version, such as multitrack recording, editing, and mixing capabilities
  • Offers a new browser with tagging, favorites, and smart lists to help manage samples, plugins, and instruments
  • Provides 15 refreshed audio effects and 6 utility plugins, including a spectrum analyzer and convert-to-mono too
  • Allows users to create custom actions and favorites in the Actions panel for one-click recall
  • Supports VST, VST3, and AU third-party plugins, expanding the creative possibilities
  • Includes features for electronic music production like inline MIDI, step sequencing, and a variety of instruments
  • Suitable for tasks like multitrack band recordings, dialogue editing, and live mixing/recording

Waveform Free runs on 64-bit versions of macOS 10.15 or later, Windows 10/11, and Linux (tested on Ubuntu 20.04). It can also run on a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B 64-bit system. The specific hardware requirements are not explicitly stated on the Waveform site, but a modern computer with a decent processor, RAM, and storage space would likely be recommended for optimal performance.

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